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Death of The Square

The last band to play at The Square was Eddie & The Hot Rods.

It didn't close because of poor attendances or lack of support, nearly 3,000 people signed the petition to keep it open,closing at 2,858.

The Square closed because the owner of the site Circle Housing wanted to put houses on the site.
Circle Housing have submitted two proposals to Harlow council, the first was withdrawn, the second was refused because of the shortage of "affordable housing".
Now they have appealed and forced it through, backed by government policy.

The housing project: The Angle, 69 dwellings to be built with 54 parking spaces, owned by Circle Housing, now Clarion Housing, the site was given planning permission by the government inspector R W Allen B.Sc (Hons) PGDip MRTPI , after Harlow Council refused permission.
The Square left the site with the agreement that Circle Housing would find them another venue under planning law, so far they are still without a venue.
1st March 2018 The Square was demolished.
Roy's Comment.
Honestly, they are trying squeeze too much housing into a very small site without enough parking provision on site.
Unlike any other development it doesn't have any other streets nearby to park on, it is an island surrounded by major roads, leaving nowhere for visitors or residents to park.
I envisage exciting times for traffic wardens and tow trucks with increased revenue for councils. 
I just hope the emergency ambulances entering and leaving the hospital do not get held up by parked cars.

Essex County Council

The problems started years ago, when Essex County Council pulled out of The Square, they were funding Harlow Rock School, in truth funding The Square, they announced that the Harlow Rock School would be leaving and sold the site.
Their's a very stupid one, that any Essex County councillor would or should be ashamed of.... The reason;
"They didn't realise The Square sold alcohol".
The Square has always sold alcohol, it's predecessor the Galaxy club also sold alcohol.
I witnessed an exasperated, angry, Labour Government Minister Mr Bill Rammel at the meeting held to discuss Conservative run Essex County Council's proposals.
He was trying to persuade the middle class official of her mistake and short comings to no avail, you got the impression she had been given a different mandate to adhere to and the meeting was a waste of everyones time.
Harlow Council at the time were also run by Conservatives & Liberals who also continued to down grade youth provision within the town, they did nothing to help save The Square.

After Essex County Council pulled out of The Square, four local musicians stepped up to run The Square on not for profit basis at the same time still doing their day jobs.

The Square Strict admission policy
If anyone drove past the Square when the doors opened they would have noticed a long queue on the steps.
The queue was caused by a strict admission policy.
The customer had to prove how old they were and a coloured band was placed on their wrist, denoting if they could drink alcohol.
The Square was the most alcohol policed bar in Harlow.
I witnessed this in action when my nephew who could drink, bought a pint for another nephew who had the under age coloured band on his wrist and handed the pint to him.
The "bouncers"/ officials were instantly on to the pair, taking away both pints and warning both of them they would be ejected if it happened again........the nephew who was under age was in a band performing that night so it could have been very embarrassing all round.
Witnessing this, I thought back to when I started to drink in Harlow pubs, how easy it was to get a pint under age, how I witnessed so many vicious fights involving smashed glasses, bottles, chairs and tables that were all used as weapons.

Where as, the Square was a safe environment, one that you could even take your granny to, with great LIVE MUSIC.

The Square was the safest most alcohol policed bar in Harlow, probably in Essex, but Conservative run Essex County Council officials and councillors that we employ through Harlow's taxes were...... definitely lacking brain cells and ridiculously stupid when they issued the statement "We didn't realise The Square sold alcohol".  

A 3 minute Speech to the full Harlow Council by Emma Batrick 4/2/2016

In December when it seemed all was lost for The Square, Carrie King and I set up a petition on and submitted this one to the council.
We wanted to ensure that the community found in The Square has a voice and is acknowledged by the council.

When it seemed as though all was lost eight years ago, 4 musicians stepped in to keep it going as an independent resource, without salary, and with no thanks, or recognition from the local authorities.
At a time when virtually all youth provision in the town was being quietly phased out, The Square remained.

For all intents and purposes, it has been run ever since as a social enterprise, and I’m glad this was recognised by some members of the council at the last circle housing proposal meeting.
The petition currently has 2,858, and has almost as many comments as signatures.

A safe place for people to go and be themselves, no matter who they are, what they like or what they look like, has been the common theme of what The Square has meant to them.
One of the comments is from a Grammy award winner who attributes his success to training at The Square.
In December Mark Davyd wrote about The Square in The Huffington Post.
He said that a lot of money had been spent in promoting the concept of harlow as a sculpture town, but what it should really be incredibly proud of is The Square.
Last year The Square became one of NME’s top 10 small independent music venues.
So why isn’t the council proud of that?
Why haven’t they fought against its closure and to get it the best deal possible to continue its 50 year legacy in a new venue?
This wouldn't be happening to The Playhouse.
Why are we here, in February 2016, with no place to go?
That’s what none of us understand.
I wish you had been there in December when I saw the Bohicas, who I think will make it big this year, and I saw them in my local music venue, supported by a college band who gave everyone cake after their set.
You don’t get that everywhere.
I wish you had been there when Chas and Dave played a sold out show where people half my age and twice it were singing along, side by side.
I wish you had been there when local legends The Sweeney played one last show and like every other band that has got on that stage in the past year said what a shame it was that the square was just being let go, and that it has the best acoustics of most places they’ve played, and I realised I would never be so close to brilliance again.
I wish you had been there Christmas eve when the house band, made up of the partners, staff and regulars of the square, played well known Christmas songs, like they have since they took the place on, and they were joined by Sam Ashford and his six year old son.
You don’t get that everywhere.
I wish you had been there new years eve when a friend said it felt like a wake, where you wanted to give one of your best friends the best send off possible, and do them proud.
That’s how we feel about that building. There were so many tears that night.
And cheers to the bouncers who have become our friends and part of The Square’s community.
You don’t get that everywhere.

I understand there was an offer of extension on the lease, but it came as a result of delayed planning applications and in December – far too late to put in a programme for a business to run properly.

We want the council to recognise what The Square brings to the town.
The value it brings in visitors, culture and creativity.
We want the council to think about future generations and them having that safe place to go and be themselves, no matter what that is, to be creative and meet likeminded people.
We want them to have the chance to play on a stage that’s not in their school and learn from their peers.
Because the thing is The Square is our Playhouse.
It is our town park, it is our Gibberd Garden, it is our sculpture town.
It is just as important to us because it is the main point of our culture and community.
It is Harlow for us.
But you would fight for each of those. You wouldn’t allow them to just go.
It wouldn’t get to after the fact for you to act.
But you weren’t there.
If you had been over the past 50 years then you would understand the magic of the place a bit more.
You would have fought as though it was the Playhouse to save it.
You would have fought as though it was the playhouse, and we wouldn’t be here, in February, closed.
We want The Council to act to secure the best deal for The Square.
But if we do reopen, I hope you are there.
And I hope you come and experience what it’s like to be part of The Square’s community.
And hopefully, should this situation ever arise again, you’ll be here, with us, trying harder to save it.

After the speech a vote was taken to support The Square in it's search for a new venue was passed unanimously.

The probable death of Live British Music 

Music is a multimillion pound industry, one that Britain has excelled at in the past and should be proud of, exporting it around the world.
Unfortunately the culturally inert governments of all political parties do not support it.
In fact they produce legislation to hinder it, they appoint a Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport with billions of pounds to spend who does nothing.
The politicians sit back and watch Live Music Die.

It's very easy for a developer, find a music pub or venue, normally situated in a town centre, very close to the population, because the venues or pubs are in a town centre it is regarded as a prime site.
Owners of the sites could never realise the capital from their business that is being offered by developers, it would take years or decades to make the same money.
Developers move in and buy the venue or pub, submit a planning application, take it to appeal where in line with government policy it is waved through, the venue doesn't stand a chance.

Small Music Venues and Music Pubs are gobbled up around the country in a quest to make the rich richer by building on the venues, Live Music Dies and with it British Culture.

Read the article by Mark Davyd The Huffington Post he puts the point more succinctly and informed.

Government policy has already destroyed so many venues, no one seems to care where the next Beatles or Rolling Stones or Cold Play are going to come from.
It begs the question are the politicians relying on Simon Cowell's TV shows to find the next generation of arena or festival artists?
Do they care about the death of yet another British industry?
Bands such as: Madness, The Stranglers, Status Quo, they all played small venues and music pubs when they were starting out.
Just take a look at some of the artists that have played at The Square then replicate it's loss across country,where will the next generation of artists play?

They cannot all be buskers.

One example I was told of locally, Status Quo played ( under a different name) at the Blacksmith Arms, Thornwood, Essex, their equipment was in the back of a Rossi ice cream van when they were starting out.
The Blacksmith Arms site has since been redeveloped into houses.
This is just one example, just think how many more thousands of Pub Venues and Small venues have gone up and down the country, all aided and abetted by English politicians with their support for developers but lack of support for the British Music industry and British Culture.

Schools are cutting back in teaching Music and the Arts, due to the cut back in relative terms of funding.
You could argue there are music colleges, music degrees,that's where the new blood will come from but where are they going to play ?

I think it could be considered easier getting up on stage in front of a College or University audience, no travelling for hours, getting over the fears, the stage fright, in front of their mates the home crowd.
How would they cope with being stuck in a van / bus together for hours, tired from traveling, then having to play their hearts out to a disinterested or hostile audience?
Facing the long journey home because all the former venues are housing estates, tired, disheartened and demoralised.
If there is nowhere left to play what is the point in going to College or University to study music ?

Brilliance comes with practice, without small venues to play, a group could face one gig in Cornwall one month and another the next month in Scotland, or even mainland Europe, then so on the next month.
Finding themselves having to play gigs for nothing, just to play, to practice.
Eventually the enthusiasm, the brilliance, fades and dies.
Musicians need money to pay tuition fees, buy the instruments and upgrade equipment, studio time, plus transport, without venues to play they don't get paid, their brilliance doesn't get known to the wider world, no one will know they existed.

Who is going to play our arenas in 20 years time?

Many of the groups / artists that are playing arenas now are already in their 60's, 70's & 80's, a product of better times, they will be gone, or wheeled out on stage to have "An evening with..." then watch the videos of when they could play and sing.

Small venues are where musicians learn their craft, how to work an audience, more importantly they get paid, they will be gone, gobbled up bit by bit, by property developers backed by a culturally inert British government.
Small venues are also the training ground for the back room people, the lighting technician, the artist, Video etc and possibly the most important person, the sound man / woman, they all need to learn their skills in different locations with different technical set ups and different acoustics.

I expect in a few years time we will be queuing up at the arenas and festivals to watch German or European artists as their governments support small venues.
Where as our English government does not.
Our government is living for today, for developers, tomorrow is someone else's problem, by then British Live Music might be dead.

© 2018

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